WASHINGTON – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he wants GOP lawmakers to work with Democrats on a legislative solution to address the elementary school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead in Uvalde, Texas this week.
In what could be a potential breakthrough on gun legislation, McConnell told CNN he met with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and encouraged him to engage with key Democratic senators “in trying to get an outcome that’s directly related to the problem. And so I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre. “
Asked if he thought the potential areas of compromise would include red flag laws, background checks or mental health issues, McConnell said he asked Cornyn “to meet with the Democrats who are interested in getting a bipartisan solution and come up with a proposal, if possible , that’s crafted to meet this particular problem. “
Red flag laws generally permit police or family members to seek a court order to temporarily confiscate firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
Any bipartisan compromise on background checks, red flag laws or firearms access could mark a substantial victory for gun control advocates, who have seen Congress do very little following previous mass shootings such as Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida.
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Democrats, who hold 50 seats in the Senate, need at least 60 votes to defeat a filibuster and bring legislation to the floor, so any proposal will need the support of at least 10 Republicans, most of whom have shown little appetite to go against the gun lobby and restrict access to firearms.
If there is to be a deal, it will not happen without McConnell.
A longstanding opponent of strengthening gun regulations and winner of the National Rifle Association’s “Defender of Freedom” award, the seven-term senator from the Bluegrass State controls how much his caucus is willing to venture on gun legislation.
McConnell was instrumental in blocking previous attempts at gun control – weapons bans, background checks, red flags for mental health cases, ammunition magazine restrictions, gun sale loopholes – when calls arose after previous mass shootings.
“Hopefully, we can get an outcome that can actually pass and become law rather than just scoring points back and forth,” McConnell told CNN Thursday.
McConnell’s comments came a day after several Democrats expressed pessimism that Republicans would be open to substantial movement on guns even with the horrific tragedy of Uvalde on the nation’s conscience.
“They (Republicans) are disturbed, upset, troubled but not willing to change where they are,” Delaware Democrat Chris Coons said Wednesday. “This is a bad day for anything even vaguely looking like hope or optimism around legislative process or progress.”
But Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and McConnell’s deputy, echoed the GOP leader’s sentiments.
“I think we have to at least listen to each other and see if there’s a path forward where we might be able to find solutions that actually address the problem,” he told Capitol Hill reporters. “Too often, in these debates, at least my experience is people come up with lots of solutions to problems that either do not exist or were not the cause.”